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The Dublin Mountain Way (Run/ Hike)

Route: Shankill –> Rathmichael Woods –> Carrickgollagan –> Barnaslingan –> The Scalp –> Glencullen –> Three Rock –> Tibradden –> Cruagh –> Bornabreena Reservoir –> Tallaght (Shamrock Rovers) –> 2km toward home (main route as described here).

Distance: 44.7km

Time: 6 hours 3 minutes (excluding a couple of snack stops, maybe another 20 minutes)

Pros: Largely really beautiful, with the route taking in sparse mountain tops, forest walkways, some nice, runnable (if you’re fitter than me) hills, excellent views, and the odd nice village to travel through. The Glencullen Adventure Centre (a few kms before halfway) is a great stop off, really relaxed and with good coffee. The route is fairly well signposted throughout (especially well on The Scalp, where it’s necessary), with signs at pretty much every junction. There were large stretches on a Friday morning where I didn’t see anyone for at least a couple of kms, so despite being within the Dublin county boundary, this felt really quite rural. Check out the pictures – the first two-thirds of this route are genuinely lovely.

Cons: Everything from about 28km onwards except the Bornabreena reservoir section (which is maybe 2-3km long), is really quite dull, all little winding roads that are not the most fun to run or walk on. Given the choice again, I’d cut the route short at the far end of Cruagh, and visit Bornabreena another time. The roadside bit through Glencullen was busier than you’d like, too, even on a weekday. Only notable refueling stops are at about 15km in, in Glencullen, then you’re pretty much on your own.

Thoughts: This had been on my list of things to do this year (yes, I have one!), and was helpfully opened up to me by the combination of a very helpful wife, on pick up and drop off, and the opening up of the whole of County Dublin in the recent change to coronavirus restrictions. There’s no denying this is at the limit of what I’m capable of at the moment – it’s fairly comparable to the Wicklow trail run I did from Bray last year, though without quite as much elevation, and I definitely ran more of it, especailly towards the end.

Realistically, I need to be doing more things in the mountain and get more comfortable moving across rugged trails with uneven surfaces to get any better at this, but it was a really great experience, and I found I was only minorly hampered by having to carry a small bag with 1.5 litres of water, food, and other essentials in it.

The route is billed as a ‘1-3 day’ on the official website, but it’s definitely walkable inside a (long) day, and with a bit of jogging, within a shorter one. I was familiar with a lot of the spots – we’re regulars in Tibradden and Carrickgollagan, and less so in Cruagh and Ticknock, but I knew a few kms of the full route before heading out, which definitely made life easier. Maps recommended, though I only really consulted them two or three times just to check I hadn’t missed exits. There are signposts marking the whole way at either end.

Strava:

Pics:

Coronavirus Shutdown: Day 77

TheJournal.ie announces no new deaths for the first time in 65 days

Monday, May 25 was the first day in 65 long days that saw no deaths whatsoever from coronavirus in Ireland, and as a result, one of my happiest in lockdown so far.

Of course, I realise people die all the time, for all kinds of reasons, and most of them never get anywhere near the news. The thing is the potential death toll of coronavirus, which is massive. The first day with no deaths felt like a major breakthrough.

The day after, we were back to 9 deaths in the day, but with the lowest ‘new cases’ figure since way back in March, at just 37. Things really do seem to be toning down.

The shutdown is still strict ( at least if you’re following guidelines), but there are also opportunities to do a little more. I’ve started adding a few toys to the shop every ten days or so that we can fit into a trip to the park, and lift Adam’s spirits. On Monday, I was able to go to the Teelings Distillery coffee shop down the road for a takeaway latte and a cake, and there was no one else in there apart from the man who served me. Honestly, it felt like an almost unimaginable luxury.

Clearly there are a lot of hoops still to jump through. Ireland is in stage one of a five-stage loosening of restrictions which will see us slowly allowed to do more every three weeks. Each little relaxation is a step towards a normality that in some senses still feels a long way off, but in others is creeping far closer than it felt just a couple of weeks ago.

I’ve become an obsessive ‘number watcher’. Not a day goes by when I don’t check exactly what the new numbers for corona cases are, and how Ireland compares in its trajectory to countries that are thought to be countering things well (South Korea, for example), and those who are almost out of control (the US, Brazil). It’s a horrible but compulsive watch.

I like the loose sense of normality. There’s a feeling we might be working from home, at least, until late summer, but at least there’s a little more freedom. Hopefully, those numbers keep sliding.

Coronavirus Shutdown: Day 56

It’s hard not to be sweepingly negative in these posts, but things are going a little better, so I’m going to try and act like it. Restrictions eased yesterday in Ireland for the first time – every measure before now has been a tightening. The change allows us to travel 5kms from home, instead of 2kms. It’s not a huge change, but it does bring Phoenix Park back into play for us, and we’re grateful for that. Things genuinely seem to be slowing down, in terms of both cases, deaths and critical cases. It’s becoming more a question of how to go back to normal

For later, when I read back, I thought I’d talk about some of the themes of the lockdown so far, from my perspective. Here’s what’s been important personally, whilst simultaneously being utterly unimportant in a wider context, such is life:

Coronavirus Shutdown: day 49

An isolated walk in Wicklow just before shutdown. I miss this.

What happens when this is over?

It’s a question that haunts me right now. Humans, of course, are hugely resilient. As a broader society, at least, we’re capable of overcoming war, famine, economic collapse and, yes, disease. We’ve seen it all before.

That said, the reality now is dark and difficult. I went shopping yesterday, a necessary evil that I hate to the point it makes me feel het-up and uncomfortable for the entire day I have to go. Then I head out, with a mask wrapped across my face as I pace slightly understocked aisles and try to feed a family for as long as I can. We’ve stretched it out to 10 days or so per shop, now, with a vegetable delivery arriving in a cardboard box in between.

But we’re the lucky ones, of course. Our combined potential exposure to the virus is minimal. We’re able to exist in a frustrating but functional cocoon of our own making, restrained by four walls but certainly not threatened by them, or forced to go outside and carry on like millions of others. We might end up another number of the 3 million people who already have, or have had, corona, or the more than 200,000 who have died globally. We know we’re privileged, because that chance is relatively small.

But it’s hard not to mourn what’s gone, too. Not just the people, though that’s devastating, but also the lifestyle. Humans are instinctively social, after all. Things like going to sports games, just one of a crowd, or travelling fairly freely around Europe every so often, or spending a weekend back home with family, or cinema, or gigs, bars, those are normal parts of my life. And it’s spurious to mourn them in this context, but it’s also very, very hard not to.

Coronavirus shutdown: day 41

Is it okay to be occasionally enjoying this? I mean, a lot of people are dying, and obviously I understand that, and at times I feel overwhelmed with the doom and gloom of it all.

On the other hand, though, modern life can be frantically paced, and being sat at home with my family, who I love and are great company, without commute times or particularly high-stress work, is often a really quite enjoyable experience. And yes, it feels very weird saying that.

Modern life has a way of creeping up on you. There have been occasional times in my life so far when I haven’t worked full time for a month or two (well, one at home, and a couple of travel-based lulls), but aside from travel I was caring for a very young child. In some ways, our current reality feels like the kind of temporary ‘weight lifted off’ situation that can be really good for general stress and anxiety that’s built over a long time.

There’s a different kind of stress and anxiety, instead, of course. One that involves a genuine fear of going to supermarkets, or taking my son out for exercise and someone coming too close to us, or relatives dying. But sometimes the silver linings, meagre though they are, are worth mentioning.

The situation outside, of course, is still pretty awful. People are dying by the dozen in Ireland, though the new infections are down, and there is some suggestion we might be nearing a peak. It’s a kind of long, drawn-out suggestion that isn’t entirely convincing: though the slow reopenings are happening in some countries, we’ve announced a shutdown of major events until the end of August.

The case numbers are up to 2.5 million worldwide, with the US now by far the epicentre, due in part to what most people seem to acknowledge are really insipid policy decisions by Donald Trump. 170,000 are dead worldwide, a number that rises by thousands every day.

The reality is, though, that things will have to start reopening before too long if we’re to avoid total economic collapse, it’s simply a question of timing it to reduce risk.

Adam had his first school class over Zoom yesterday. It didn’t work very well but he’s really missed his friends, so seeing them was something a little bit special. I miss socialising too. It’s low, at times, and oddly fine at others. What strange times.

Coronavirus Shutdown: day 24

It’s incredible how quickly something becomes the new normal. Crossing the street to avoid people when you leave the house for a little exercise. An amount of handwashing that would previously have seen ludicrously over the top. Trying to work during normal days, with a six-year-old running around the housing wanting to do everything, or nothing that you suggest at all. We started a tradition today of clapping him at weekends for coping with it all.

The shutdown is scheduled to end in just over a week, but I don’t think anyone in their right minds thinks it will. In fact, we were meant to fly to Scotland in four days time for an extended Easter holiday in the Highlands, what would have been an absolutely unprecedented second trip in just over a month, an amount of travel that’s completely out of the norm for us. It seems alien now; the flights have already been cancelled for weeks.

The corona numbers are through the roof. Closing in on 1.5 million cases worldwide, with the US now with an astonishing one third of a million in its own right. Deaths are creeping towards 70,000. Ireland still seems to be under relative control, in that the numbers are rising at or below 10% a day, and our intensive care units aren’t overrun. Yet. But it is a weird, anxious time, not helped by the riddles of silly conspiracy theories and misinformation that seem to be a feature of life now.

Anxiety, in fact, has really crept into it for me. It comes and goes in unpredictable patterns. Some days I wake up wildly enthusiastic about another day with family, making the house nicer, and getting in a bit of real work around things. Other days, it feels like the apocalypse and I barely function.

Coronavirus Shutdown: Day 4

A quick note before we begin. This is my blog, and, obviously, not an official source. It’s very much from a personal perspective. I understand people are dying from COVID-19, and if I’m occasionally lighthearted, it’s not to intended on any level to downplay that. I moved to South Korea on my own 13 years ago, and writing about it was one of the ways I coped with the anxiety that came with the early strain of what turned out to be an incredible adventure, and helped me to process what I was doing. Obviously this won’t turn out to be an incredible adventure, but it is written in the same spirit, one of, essentially, dealing with how things are.

Today this became more than a long weekend stuck at home. I mean, it was always more than a long weekend stuck at home, of course, but not going into work on Monday morning (I logged in remotely at my kitchen table) hammered the point home.

The weekend was weird, too. Right now the official advice is to steer clear of unnecessary social contact, and you can see that in some people’s behaviour, though unfortunately not in others. Packed images from Temple Bar – people who clearly aren’t able to use their own common sense – forced the government to require pubs to close from today.

The initial noises of businesses struggling and individuals unable to make a living are already quite vocal; at the moment we’re personally quite lucky in that we’re able to isolate from it and work from home, but that comes with a social responsibility at times like this that I think it’s important we take on. I will be giving a lot of thought to how as this progresses. Airlines, entertainment and the restaurant industry seem to be the worst hit, and the share markets – a figure I’ve always felt was at best semi-relevant to the lives of most normal people – are crashing hard.

We spent most of the weekend at home, but did venture out to get some air, in the park and at the beach, as well as and walking and jogging around locally. A lot of people seem to have taken up running, perhaps as a form of self-protection against respiratory problems, though I’d imagine it’s also something to do with so many social spaces closed. I’ve been running regularly for months, and I’ve never seen even half the numbers out on the streets that I saw over the weekend. I went long and did my own half marathon around Phoenix Park (see pic), because let’s face it, there’s not much else to do, and it’s not hard to imagine a more stringent lock-in might be around the corner.

The Lee Harveys: Protest Punk.

AS THEIR NAME might suggest, Dublin punks The Lee Harveys – made up of musicians who have been hanging around the Irish punk scene since the early 80s – were originally very much about American political protest songs. An odd niche for a Dublin-based band, perhaps, if one most punks would agree offers fertile ground.

The band are angry, firing off two-minute, politically potent tracks on themes like Israel and Palestine, gun crime and a certain Donald Trump. Their latest EP, due shortly, is entitled ‘Resistance is Not Terrorism’, and – amongst other themes – rounds on Eurovision’s visit to Israel with an ‘alternative Eurovision’ track.

“One of things that I loved about the Dead Kennedy’s was the sense of mischief they had, and that’s what we’re doing here, throwing the cat amongst the pigeons,” guitarist Peter Jones says of the song. “It’s not against the Eurovision, it’s in support of Palestine.”

“We’re not against the Israeli people, we’re against what’s happening over there. I think it’s like holding the Eurovision on the Shankill Road in the middle of the troubles,” Bitzy Fitzgerald explains.

“We have submitted the track to RTE, but we haven’t had a response. I’m not sure we really wanted one. But the whole thing was to make a point about it, really, a bit of subversion and a bit of craic.”

There’s a real punk ethos to the way the Lee Harveys release their music, too, with circumstances seeing the band cram their new ‘EP’ with old classics because they can.